Trump’s Facebook ban should not be lifted, network’s oversight board rules

Donald Trump

Donald Trump’s Facebook account should not be reinstated, the social media giant’s oversight board said on Wednesday.

Facebook suspended Trump’s account after the Capitol attack of 6 January, when a mob of Trump supporters stormed Congress in an attempt to overturn the former president’s defeat by Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential election.

Trump was initially suspended from Facebook and Instagram for 24 hours, as a result of two posts shared to the platform in which he appeared to praise the actions of the rioters. The company then extended the president’s ban “at least until the end of his time in office”.

Announcing Trump’s indefinite suspension, the Facebook chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, said: “We believe the risks of allowing the president to continue to use our service during this period are simply too great. Therefore, we are extending the block we have placed on his Facebook and Instagram accounts indefinitely … at least … until the peaceful transition of power is complete.”

Biden was inaugurated on 20 January and Facebook deferred judgment on Trump’s account to the Facebook oversight board. Colloquially known as its “supreme court”, the board was formed in 2020 and is meant to operate independently of Facebook’s corporate leadership. The group announced in February that it was looking into Trump’s suspension and would take public comments.

The board defines its mission as “to promote free expression by making principled, independent decisions regarding content on Facebook and Instagram and by issuing recommendations on the relevant Facebook company content policy”.

Members include Helle Thorning-Schmidt, a former prime minister of Denmark; Jamal Greene, a Columbia law professor; Tawakkol Karman, a Nobel peace prize winner from Yemen; and Alan Rusbridger, a former editor of the Guardian.

But critics have said Facebook should have made its own decisions rather than using the body. They’ve also argued that the board is “designed and bankrolled by Facebook”, calling in question its full independence.

In February a group of scholars, advocates and activists calling itself the Real Facebook Oversight Board said: “Real oversight must be combined with other critically needed reforms: laws that change financial incentives for big tech, heavy regulation and a reckoning with the algorithms that are laying waste to democratic society.”

Campaigners have pushed for Trump’s suspension to be made permanent, pointing at the importance of the platform for the former president in pushing his message.

In February, Change the Terms, a coalition of more than 60 human rights groups, said: “The board must acknowledge that Trump’s social media presence has made not just Facebook users but the entire world less safe.”

Following the Capitol riot, Trump was suspended from several major tech platforms, including Twitter, YouTube and Snapchat. Twitter has since made its ban permanent. YouTube’s CEO said in March that platform would lift it suspension when the risk of violence decreases.

Five people including a police officer died as a direct result of the Capitol attack and more than 400 people have been charged in connection with it.

In a speech outside the White House before the riot on 6 January, Trump told supporters to “fight like hell” to advance his lie that his defeat was the product of massive electoral fraud, a claim repeatedly laughed out of court.

Democrats in Congress impeached Trump for inciting an insurrection. He was acquitted when only seven Republicans voted to convict.

Trump has spent most of the time since then at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida. He retains a grip on the Republican party, topping polls regarding potential nominees for president in 2024. In March, a spokesperson for Trump said the former president would soon form his own social media platform. – The Guardian